12/19/2016 / In Jewelry
You’ve heard the expression “labor of love”, right? Often referring to acts of kindness, romantic gestures, or those little things you do to surprise her. Maybe it’s that time you had the house cleaned or that trip you took for your anniversary. Well, I hate to break it to you but the Wellendorff family has each and every one of us beat.
You see, the men of the Wellendorff family have a long, standing history of presenting their wives with jewelry they designed themselves and had custom made in their facilities in Germany. Their personal expressions of true love have made the Wellendorff brand known for value, design, and sensation. In fact, you can recognize their work with your eyes closed.
The Wellendorff family’s existence can be traced back to the 12th century but their goldsmithing heritage only dates back to the late 1800’s when Ernst Alexander Wellendorff began making gold jewelry for European royalty and aristocracy. With much success, Wellendorff founded his own workshop in Pforzheim, Germany in 1893. Over several decades, he perfected his goldsmithing techniques and passed them on to his son Alexander. Hanspeter, Alexander’s son, developed the Wellendorff Rope, the first piece to attract world-wide attention for the brand.
The Wellendorff Rope
The Wellendorff Rope was originally developed as a one-of-a-kind piece for Hanspeter’s wife, Eva, in the 1970’s. One of Eva’s fondest childhood memories was of her grandmother’s beautiful curtains that had been accented by silk gold ropes. These ropes fascinated her as the sensation of letting them slip through her fingers was one she couldn’t forget. In 1975, Eva tasked her husband with designing a necklace that felt just as smooth and silky as those ropes she cherished. Even though the task seemed impossible, Hanspeter, experimented with his goldsmiths for over two years until he managed to create the first Wellendorff Rope in 1977. The necklace was one of the most innovative pieces of jewelry at the time and has since become a classic staple of the brand.
“Still today, each time I touch it when I put on the rope, it’s like my skin is being caressed by the gold. It’s always a magical moment! I guard this necklace like a treasure and still enjoy wearing it today,” says Eva Wellendorff.
How It’s Made
Each Wellendorff Rope is still made by hand, just like Eva’s original. Specialists spend over two years training at the Wellendorff Academy before they are allowed to work in the Pforzheim factory. Goldsmiths begin the proprietary process of creating the signature gold rope with gold ingots, which they melt down and then combine with an alloy of copper and silver to create Wellendorff’s 18-karat gold wire. They work and refine the wire until it’s wafer-thin.
The wire for each necklace is then handwoven for several hours, limiting production to only 20 pieces per day. The family believes that technique is the only way to ensure that each strand is entwined evenly, maintaining strength while limiting entanglement. Each separate strand of gold, the 18-karat “soul,” as it is known in goldsmithing circles, offers necessary stability while maintaining flexibility. These attributes allow for the necklace to nestle softly against the wearer’s skin – a feeling often described as silky-soft.
Hanspeter put his final stamp on the Wellendorff Rope with a “Diamond W” charm, a symbol that today marks 4 generations of quality. While many have attempted to copy the world renowned piece, only originals have this sacred “W”, assuring authenticity and perfection.
Hanspeter’s sons, Christoph and Georg, helped to take their father’s work a step further by using a secret manufacturing technique that works small sparkling highlights into each of the gold strands. These glistening accents capture light and envelop the piece in a scintillating shimmer that invokes a fresh, youthful look.
Like Shreve & Co., Wellendorff is currently run by fourth generation family members, with the goal of continuing to express the company’s long tradition in every new design. Much has changed over the past 120 years since the company was founded − but the standards of top quality, exceptional design and the silky-soft feel against skin have not changed.
So, while you may not be able to design or manufacture your own Wellendorff rope, you can use the Wellendorff family as inspiration for your own “labor of love.”
Looking to create your signature “labor of love”?
Feel free to come into a Shreve & Co store and get a how-to on crafting your romantic gesture this holiday season.
All of our staff are ready and willing to help you select and personalize a gift for your significant other. We’ll even help you tell the story. Ask for Maria in our San Francisco location or Tony in our Palo Alto location. You can also schedule an appointment here.